How To Craft a Diversity Statement for Graduate School Application

In recent years, more and more institutions of higher education are requesting applicants to graduate programs to write a statement of diversity. A diversity statement, also sometimes referred to as a personal history statement, is used by these institutions to gauge how their future student population will contribute to their ongoing efforts to promote and maintain a culture of equity and inclusion.

Typically, diversity statements are one-page double-spaced documents that highlight how you, as a future student, will foster diversity within the community. The narrative tends to be more personal than that in a statement of purpose, with particular emphasis on cultural competence and understanding of current issues and efforts surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion.  In composing such an essay, it might be helpful to include some of the following elements:

  • Statements of values as they relate to your understanding of historical barriers to diversity, inclusion, equity, and/or justice in higher education and your commitment towards dismantling those barriers. If you belong to a minority population, you can discuss how that experience shaped your outlook on life and your willingness to champion others who are in similar circumstances.
  • Examples of experiences that highlight your efforts in promoting the success of underrepresented students, peers, and staff and supporting various viewpoints in the classroom, lab, campus, or community. For example, if you have taught a class, how did you ensure equitable learning in that environment? If you have volunteered in underrepresented communities, what did you learn from those interactions? Try to include at least 2-3 relevant experiences, and for any of those be sure to emphasize what you did to promote diverse perspectives.
  • Relevant projects and coursework that address topics related to diversity, equity and inclusion. For example, if you have sat in on a workshop on how to address intrinsic or extrinsic bias, you could convey how you incorporated what you learned into your daily living. If you have undertaken a project for a class that touched on issues surrounding diversity, you could highlight that as well.
  • Future plans for continuing to advance inclusive excellence, diversity, or equity in your research, teaching, and service to the campus community. You can also talk about your personal growth as you continue to educate yourself on issues surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion. Be genuine in your narrative and present yourself as a person who is willing to learn and adapt to change.

Should You Self-Disclose Elements of Your Personal Identity?

Although most people are willing to share elements of their personal background and upbringing in their actual statement, it is ok if you do not. Nevertheless, if you do identify as a member of an underrepresented group, reflecting on your personal circumstance might provide context to the values that you articulate in your statement. Additionally, be sure to focus on your own experiences and accomplishments rather than those of your family or loved ones. If you have questions and/or concerns regarding any aspect of the diversity statement, do not hesitate to reach out to your mentors or pre-grad advisors to ask for

By Doris Tabassum
Doris Tabassum Associate Director, Graduate School Advising